On the Spot: Advice from The Times Travel editor

Winning moves in the air miles awards game (Coach Tip No. 1: Don't buy upgrades).

After traveling for work for more than 35 years (I retired a few years ago), I'd accumulated many miles on United. I've used most of them, but I have just

On the Spot: Is renting a car in Baja the best use of your time and money?

Question: We will be going to Loreto, Mexico, and may want to rent a car for a few days. I have been reading about insurance and about being billed for damage

Marketing fee from HomeAway prompts owner anger and lawsuit

The online rental agency HomeAway comes under fire for levying a marketing fee on listings.

Here's what you should know when shopping for airfares this spring

With lower prices and expanding routes, travelers might have a better chance to save money on airfares.

Tips to help travelers be proactive in protecting their privacy

In the wake of the hotel stalker case, security experts caution travelers to guard their privacy in hotels.

Renew your passport now and beat the 2017 crowd

If your passport is set to expire in 2017, go ahead and renew now to avoid getting caught in surge of applications.

The facts on Real ID and TSA-compliant ID cards for senior citizens

What you need to know about Real ID compliance and ID cards for senior citizens.

Global Entry program turns this traveler down, then reconsiders--and here's why

Long-ago run-ins with the law trip up travelers denied Global Entry membership, and it's a long wait for answers.

For currency exchange and 5-star tourist service, Cuba is still a work in progress

Cuba has a ways to go when it comes to currency exchange and tourist services.

6 strategies for getting seats together with your kids on airplanes

Airlines are flying near capacity, which is why parents are finding it harder to get seats with the kids. But it's not impossible.

How to cover all the bases with car rental insurance

On the Spot: Before buying expensive insurance, check with your credit card company on its rental car coverage

Is your driver's license Real ID compliant? What air travelers should keep in mind.

An update on the complicated issue of whether states are meeting Real ID requirements, and what it means for air travelers.

Should you avoid travel to areas affected by the Zika virus?

What are the dangers of the Zika virus and should you avoid travel to affected areas? Will trip insurance cover a cancellation?

TSA's PreCheck revamped to restrict program to paying customers only

The airport PreCheck line used to allow selected people through who hadn't signed on to the program. No longer, the TSA says.

Why 'group tours' have been rebranded as 'guided vacations'

The cut-rate cattle herding with subpar food and generic sightseeing is so yesteryear; now it's value pricing on carefully curated excursions.

Is travel insurance worth it? Seven things to consider

Travel insurance isn't inexpensive but can be well worth it. Thoroughly consider policies before making a decision.

Before you think about buying travel insurance, consider these four questions

Catharine Hamm, in her On the Spot travel column, considers the need for travel insurance and poses four questions.

If airfare drops after you buy a ticket, are you entitled to a refund?

If airfare drops after you buy a ticket, don't expect a refund of the difference. You're in the world of demand pricing.

What to do when TSA PreCheck doesn't seem to work

Key things to do to ensure travelers get the TSA PreCheck benefits they paid for

Why rolling luggage is cool for travelers but a pain for airlines

Why rolling luggage is cool for travelers but a pain for airlines

Would taking these two cruises violate an 1886 U.S. law? We asked two maritime lawyers

A travel agent's reluctance to book a double cruise for fear of violating a law leaves traveler and maritime lawyers flummoxed.

Why there's so much runway construction at LAX – and when it will end

Runway construction at LAX it to build Runway Safety Areas

How should airlines handle passengers sneaking vapes off an e-cigarette -- mid-flight?

When flying, vaping is as illegal as any other kind of smoking. If you spot someone doing it, notify a flight attendant.

Need a visa to Brazil? Brace yourself for a long process

Because getting a visa to Brazil is rarely an easy process, make sure you have that documentation in hand before booking a trip.

How to get where you're going when your flight gets canceled

Flight canceled -- now what? Be proactive and press the airline to fulfill obligations. Here are handy tips, apps and websites.

Want to bring back amaryllis bulbs from Amsterdam? Here's what you should know

You need documentation to bring amaryllis bulbs from the Netherlands to the U.S. Also, you can buy them domestically.

Her grandchild is due around Thanksgiving: What are her airfare options to arrive in time?

A Los Angeles grandma-to-be plans to fly to New York around Thanksgiving for the baby's arrival. Airfare experts offer advice.

Passport to trouble? Be safe, get a Chinese visa

A planned one-day trip to Shanghai elicits different answers on need for visa. Better to be safe than sorry.

Want to scatter a loved one's ashes abroad? Some travel rules to heed.

When it comes to traveling with cremated remains and later scattering the ashes, seek out the rules from each airline and country.

Booking a flight using airline miles and cash is a good idea, but tricky

Trying to mix frequent flier miles and points when booking a flight can be a complicated business, though it can often pay off.

Heading to Cuba? Some tips on exchanging euros vs. U.S. dollars

Here are some issues to consider when deciding whether to exchange euros or U.S. dollars for travel in Cuba.

How crooks try to hook you into scam hotel bookings

Beware false Internet sites and solicitations offering hotel deals too good to be true.

Delta blackout makes cheap airfare game even tougher

Delta blocking some search engines makes airfare shopping harder. Shouldn't we be able to see the information on any site we pick?

Bumped from online service's booking? It's probably airline's doing

Many online travel services are at the mercy of airlines, although passengers should check carefully and make calls.

Gemstone buyers abroad should avoid deals too good to be true

Travelers on the lookout for bargains on jewelry should be wary and know the 'rules of the game.'

Cruise lines' fine print limits their liability, your right to sue

Cruise lines, airlines have boilerplate clauses that often favor them over passengers, including liability and the right to sue.

Lessons in money management for a semester-abroad student

Credit cards, debit cards, cash each have advantages and caveats when used abroad. Here are a rundown, strategies (money belt!).

Must hotels disclose construction? It's better in long run if they do

Though resorts/hotels aren't required to disclose when there's construction on premises, not doing so could damage credibility.

Airline restrooms may challenge wheelchair users; here's expert advice

Strategies for wheelchair users facing air travel — straight from those who know.

Schengen agreement: Understand the 90/180 rule before European travel

The Schengen agreement allows for visa-free short-term travel in many European nations. For lengthy stays, you'll need visas.

How to help smooth trip through airport for passengers in wheelchairs

Travel advice for the disabled: Contact the airline and keep communicating on seats, stowage and special needs

Make sure germs don't hitch a ride on you during plane travel

Cough-cough. Hack. Germs are all around on this plane. How to avoid them?

Togetherness has a price when flying with family

Families flying together naturally want to sit together, but airlines don't always make that easy. Here are some strategies.

Chip and PIN? Chip and signature? Here's what travelers should know

As credit card companies and merchants work on making the change to chip and PIN cards, here's more information for travelers.

Do hotel thermostats with motion sensors have you waking up in a sweat?

Thermostats linked to motion detectors can leave guests cold or way too warm. Some turn to Mylar balloons, others to communication.

Thinking of a trip to Cuba? Make sure you're up for a 'raw' adventure

The easing of travel restrictions to Cuba creates opportunities for travelers but also misunderstandings over current regulations.

Unfortunate last-minute lesson in United's rules on kids flying solo

Children traveling alone on flights face different rules from different airlines. Check the company's policy before booking.

On the Spot: Airfares stay sky high despite oil price drops

Like everything having to do with airlines it's not simple, and the customer barely counts

Wi-Fi and cellphone data plans abroad: You have options

Some tips to avoid going deeply into debt while connecting online abroad.

Tips for getting cash while traveling overseas

When traveling abroad, avoid cash frustrations by carrying several means of access to local currency.

Credit card exchange rate? Don't worry. Foreign transaction fees? Worry

What's even more pressing for credit card users traveling abroad than conversion rates? Being aware of foreign transaction fees.

On the Spot: Honor seat reservations? That's up to the airline

Airlines aren't legally obligated to honor seat reservations. Don't like it? You can try for a refund, be crass or take high road.

Euros or dollars? The wrong choice will cost you

Is expat living on your horizon? Read up on extended travel abroad

If the expatriate life is calling to you, there's plenty of guidance online to help you plan extended travel or living abroad.

Cruising overseas? Don't forget to factor in the visa fees

Oceania's visa fees don't float with one cruiser. You can do it yourself, but it's better to use a third-party agent, especially if problems surface.

Flier's favorite L.A.-Portland, Ore., flights were discontinued. Why?

The reasons an airline may drop a flight are plenty, experts say, but it all boils down to economics.

Holiday travel: October is best bet for Christmas, Thanksgiving deals

Early October is the best time to find holiday travel deals, but if you've missed that deadline, there's still a little leeway.

On the Spot: Taking a stand when airplane seat mate has stinky feet

Options include requesting seat mate put shoes back on. Best bets are with flight attendants and carrier's rules on offensive odors.

On the Spot: Stranded in Florence between Lufthansa and Vayama

A passenger late for a Lufthansa flight on a Sunday was told to rebook through Vayama, which isn't open on Sunday.

Beware: Merged, code-sharing airlines don't always have prices in sync

Price differences can crop up even with code-share partners and merged airlines like US Airways-American, so always compare fares.

Pack light and carry on: Aer Lingus teaches a lesson with baggage fees

Checked baggage fees can be difficult to determine (at Aer Lingus, for one). Packing lighter and carrying on may be easier.

Airlines make first class ultra-luxurious; any hope for coach?

Premium service done correctly can mean significant financial returns for an airline. Will that mean improvements for those in coach?

For National Passport Awareness month, some info on 10-year rule

With National Passport Awareness month upon us, it's time to check to see if you need a new one.

The most fun you can have with air miles, on the ground

A reader searches for ways to cash in air miles without flying

On the Spot: Beware the phone and email scams

IRS calls? Stranded traveler emails from friends? Scams, both. Download and run reputable antivirus software — your PC might be infected.

A refund from Aeroflot over terrorism fears? Expect a 'nyet'

Some airlines are proactive in the face of trouble, others not. The best you can do is plead your case. And read the contract of carriage.

On the Spot: Overseas ATMs and the possibly too-long PIN dilemma

Most world ATMs support up to 12-digit PINs, but some do only four. PIN too long? Consider changing it or your bank, or try a different ATM.

What travelers should consider when Alzheimer's is in the picture

If you're thinking of traveling with a person suffering from Alzheimer's or other memory impairments, weigh the risks and rewards.

On the Spot: What to do with accidents involving rental cars

A reader's Tesla Model S was damaged in a hit-and-run by a driver in a rental car owned by Hertz. Here's what followed.

Four rules for minimizing your rental car cost

Rental car rates are going up. L.A. Times Travel Editor Catharine Hamm offers four rules for keeping your cost down.

Duty-free shoppers, make sure you've got rules on liquids in the bag

Buying liquids at a duty-free store? Make sure to pack items in TSA-approved bags, a.k.a. STEBs.

Secrets to getting a frequent-flier ticket

Frequent-flier-points experts say awards tickets at little cost can be obtained using three rules.

When travel insurance that's beyond the standard policy makes sense

For risk-averse travelers, cancel-for-any-reason insurance might fit the bill. But it's costly and won't result in a full refund.

When State Department alerts put travel plans in doubt

Advice on tipping while traveling abroad

Advice on tipping while traveling abroad

Taking advantage of last-minute travel bargains

On the Spot: For bargains, look for package discounts and 'flash sales' on social media, and check out Expedia, AARP and other websites for last-minute deals.

Redeem air miles now to avoid devaluation losses

Redeem airline miles early to avoid devaluation losses

That favorite belt? Leave home without it when going on a trip

On the Spot: If you must take valuable items on a trip, and they go missing, report losses immediately. And remember, not all is covered.

Travelers on TSA's PreCheck program must still undergo screening

On the Spot: Confusion reigns over what the TSA's PreCheck program entails, but there's no escaping the airport screening process.

Only one toilet working aboard airplane: What are the guidelines?

Passengers on a cross-country flight are notified that just one lavatory is working. Are there regulations for such a situation?

Sore back? How to care for yourself during a hotel stay

On the Spot travel questions: How to care for a sore back during a hotel stay

Traveling with pricey items? Hotels aren't always thief-proof

On the Spot: If you must travel with costly items, here are some tips on how to help keep them secure, though nothing's foolproof.

Woe is the leisure traveler as frequent-flier programs change

On the Spot: Frequent-flier miles are becoming devalued and harder to use. Playing the game takes cunning, determination.

The smart way to travel with a smartphone

On the Spot: Surprise roaming and data charges can be staggering when using a smartphone abroad. Here's 14 tips to save cash while staying connected.

ATMs the best way to get cash when you're abroad

No restrictions on airlines changing air-mile programs

On the Spot: An angry airline customer wonders whether it's legal for his carrier to charge for maintaining his reward miles — it is.

On the Spot: Car rentals and the honor system

Car rental companies may have geographic restrictions and/or ask for a receipt from a gas station. Enforcement may be up to you.

TSA initiative could create passenger pileups during holidays

On the Spot: Clueless fliers are already slowing down the TSA's expediting screening lines. What'll happen during the busy holidays?

On the Spot: A new knee, a new reason to hate airport screenings

On the Spot: Knee and hip replacements can sound alarms at airport screenings. Will Transportation Security Administration ever adopt a standard exam?

He's floored by maid's pillow protocol

On the Spot: A man staying in a luxury hotel is aghast when his pillowcase isn't changed after his pillow falls to the floor. Is he being too picky?

The case of the icky latex glove 'gift' in suitcase

On the Spot: TSA policy is to leave notification if a bag is searched. No note? It could be the airline. In this case it'll remain a mystery.

Sky-high fare rivals fractured pelvis on pain meter

On the Spot: An emergency ticket change for a flight out of a small, remote airport results in sticker shock for a couple.

On the Spot: After losing Global Entry cards, must they re-interview?

They lost their Global Entry cards. But do they need them in hand to use the program? Or will a passport or driver's license do?

Consolidator tickets: The good, the bad, the ugly

Consolidator tickets fall into a gray area, so be sure to know the risks before booking.

Map or GPS? It all depends

On the Spot: Those comfortable with cartography might prefer their directions on a map. Otherwise, listening to directions may be the way to go.